Food Allergy Counseling

Food Allergy Counseling
Sloane Miller, MFA, MSW, LMSW, Psychotherapist; Specialist in Food Allergy Management, Speaking At Mylan Specialty / EpiPen Event (© Noel Malcolm 2013)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Food Allergies, Bullying

When I was a child, I was not teased nor bullied about food allergies – at least not often nor regularly – not that caused any lasting memories or trauma. I was the only kid who had them in my class , there was no media attention on the topic, there were no special nut-free tables and there were no autoinjectors of epinephrine to carry.

But I was teased and harassed regularly about my asthma by my gym teacher, for years. Remember that episode from Frasier where he stops dating a female gym teacher because she reminds him of his grade-school gym teacher who teased him for not climbing the rope? Yeah, that kind of trauma.

So I was very interested to see this study (based on a questionnaire of FAAN participants) into the real incidents of bullying, teasing and harassment because of food allergies. The study, released today, I hope will bring more scholarly attention to the psychosocial effects of food allergies, a topic I explore in my forthcoming book, Allergic Girl.

Colleague and allergic girl, Elizabeth Landau of covered the study here.

And here’s a press release from Mount Sinai:

First Study of Its Kind Finds Children with Food Allergies Are Often Victims of Bullying

(New York – September 28, 2010) In the first-ever study to assess the social impact of food allergies in children, Mount Sinai researchers have found that approximately 35 percent of children with food allergies over the age of five reported experiencing bullying, teasing, or harassment as a result of their allergies. Of those experiencing teasing or harassment, 86 percent were reported to have experienced repeated episodes. Classmates were the most common perpetrators, but surprisingly more than 20 percent reported harassment or teasing from teachers and other school staff. The data are reported in the October issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Led by Scott H. Sicherer, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, researchers analyzed survey responses from 353 parents or caregivers of children with food allergies and food-allergic individuals. The survey was conducted at meetings of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network in Tarrytown, New York, Rosemont, Illinois, and Baltimore, Maryland in 2009.

“We know that food allergy in children affects quality of life and causes issues like anxiety, depression, and stress for them and their parents,” said Dr. Sicherer. “However, our study is the first to explore teasing, harassment and bullying behaviors aimed at these children. The results are disturbing, as they show that children not only have to struggle with managing their food allergies, but also commonly bear harassment from their peers.”

More than 43 percent were reported to have had the allergen waved in their face and 64 percent were reported as having experienced verbal teasing. No allergic reactions resulted from the bullying, but approximately 65 percent reported resulting feelings of depression and embarrassment.

“It was recently estimated that nearly one in 25 children has a food allergy,” said Dr. Sicherer. “What is so concerning about these results is the high rate of teasing, harassment and bullying, its impact on these vulnerable children, and the fact that perpetrators include not only other children, but adults as well. Considering the seriousness of food allergy, these unwanted behaviors risk not only adverse emotional outcomes, but physical risks as well. It is clear that efforts to rectify this issue must address a better understanding of food allergies as well as strict no-bullying programs in schools.”

A previous study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development showed that 17 percent of children in grades 6 through 10 reported being bullied. While this study was not designed to determine prevalence of bullying in children with food allergy, the number of patients bullied in the corresponding age group according to the survey is double that of the prior study. The authors suggest that school programs designed to reduce bullying should include information about the vulnerable population of children with food allergies.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My Life In Food, Allergic Girl

*** Here's the segment on YouTube.***

Friday, September 24, 2010, at 930pm EST & Friday, October 1, 2010 at 12:30pm I’m going to be on My Life in Food, a new series produced by Al Roker Entertainment for the Cooking Channel.

I know, OMG.

The Al Roker Entertainment crew and I spent some quality time together talking all things food allergy: they came with me as I had a sit down with a Worry-free Dinners partner restaurant; a food allergy coaching client and I went food shopping; and I talked with an allergist colleague all about food allergy definitions and diagnosis.

Ironically, during the shoot, one of the production assistants revealed that she had a banana and latex allergy and doesn’t carry her epinephrine auto-injector or have an allergist locally. But, she told me she felt inspired to take better care of her food allergy needs because of working together on the segment. So excellent!

It was an honor to explore the needs, concerns, hopes and dreams of the food allergic community on camera for a wider audience. Like the PA, I hope the segment inspires any one of you who may have been feeling fearful or shy about your food allergic needs to know that you aren't alone, there is support for you and you can totally go out to dinner, like every night, if you want. (Here are my tips on how.)

"My Life in Food" airs Fridays at 9:30PM EST on the Cooking Channel. Here in NYC, The Cooking Channel is on channel 51 on Time Warner Cable, channel 166 on FIOS - channel 217 on RCN. Look for My Life in Food on your local station and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Head on over to my You Tube channel where you can watch me at a farmer’s market trying my new thing a week.

Or you can watch it right here!

Stay tuned to the You Tube channel where I’ll have more short videos of me trying new stuff, safely and often.

Monday, September 20, 2010

New Thing a Week

I talk about this all the time when coaching, when meeting new people and just out and about but have I not talked about it on Allergic Girl yet? Oh dear.

Well, here it is: I try a new thing a week.

My categories are broad: a new product from a trusted allergen-free manufacturer, a new restaurant, a new dish at a trusted restaurant, or a new food from a trusted food group.

For example, if I can eat cabbage then why not Napa cabbage? Gluten-free, dairy-free, peanut-free and tree nut free Kinnikinnick is coming out with a new cookie? Oh yes, I’m trying that.

When you have a diet that’s restricted by reacting adversely to certain foods i.e. you have a list of foods that you must avoid (for me, all tree nuts, fish, shellfish, some fruits and veggies) then you can feel rather restricted. One way out of the that pauvre-moi box is to add foods back in or expand your diet, smartly and safely.

Work with your allergist, GI, RD or food allergy coach before you start throwing stuff back into your diet. And yes, I go into deeper details about how to do all this in Allergic Girl, available for pre-order soon.


This week, I discovered something totally new and cool at the famer’s market, a weekly source of new and cool foods – a tomato in a husk. (This week and next are its very short peak season in New York state.)

It’s not a gooseberry and it’s not a tomatillo but it is in a papery husk. It grows on a bush, not on a vine, and it's genetically part of the tomato family. The fruit, tomatoes are fruits, was a tiny orange orb, full of sugar and sunshine. As I’m generally OK with tomatoes -- sometimes they bother my mouth and throat (Oral Allergy Syndrome) but it's not a severe nor life threatening allergy -- I tried one. My goodness it was good, different, and totally new.

I'll be exploring my new things a week here and on the You Tube channel I created just for us.

Have you tried something new and wonderful? Let me know!

Monday, September 13, 2010

FAAN Walk, Westchester, 2010

Save the date (I'll be there too!)

From a press release:

October 2 FAAN walk, Westchester, NY

More info on our registration page

Join the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) for Walk for Food Allergy:

Moving Toward A Cure in Westchester
on Saturday, October 2, 2010

at Glen Island Park in New Rochelle, NY
Registration at 9am.
Walk begins at 10am.

Fun for the whole family!
Live music, Entertainment, Games,
Arts & Crafts, Play Areas and More

For more information on FAAN and the 2010 Walk for Food Allergy in Westchester, please go to

Friday, September 10, 2010

Rosh Hashanah, 2011

It’s that time of year again, one of my favorite holidays: Rosh Hashanah or the Jewish New Year.

Jews around the world, Orthodox and secular alike, take stock of the previous year during the Days of Awe leading up to the day of atonement, Yom Kippur. We look at any wrongs we may have incflicted and do our best to make them right. We also forgive those wrongs done to us. Additionally, we think about the next year, what will be different, what will be our “new year’s resolutions.” This holiday also features some spectacular food, natch.

I like my fellow Jews will dine on sweet foods to symbolize sweetness for the New Year and then fast on Yom Kippur the following week to atone.

However, you certainly don’t need to be Jewish or wait until December 31 to look over that past year, and right and wrongs you may have done and make resolutions for the New Year. Perhaps it’s really stick to your gluten-free diet if you’re asymptomatic celiac; perhaps it’s finally get to see that allergist and get your food allergies confirmed; maybe it’s having that talk with that one family member who still teases you that you’re allergic (yes, I have that one too).

Regardless, taking stock is always a good thing.

Here’s wishing you all a sweet new year. l’Shana tova.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

DOD, Food Allergies

Last week, I traveled to Washington DC to be a consumer reviewer for the Department of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs. This is the second year Congress has set aside monies to research the genetics of food allergy. It’s also the second year they have put a panel like this together to look at the scientific merits of the proposals and to make recommendations as to which ones are worthy to receive the large financial award.

All in all, it was three days of meetings. The first evening began with a dedication and moment of silence for the food allergic community. I was honored to be asked to give that dedication. I read a poem by Pablo Neruda about tomatoes (they give me funky mouth ) and talked about how the dream for millions of us with food allergies is to be able to eat foods without adverse reactions.

The rest of that evening and for the two days following, we got down to work. The work set before this very learned panel of allergy researchers and clinicians was to evaluate research proposals which explored the possible genetic causes of food allergy. Together, the panel made recommendations to the Department Of Defense about which proposals were the best formulated and most scientifically sound to fund.

As one of two consumer reviewers, my mission was to rate the potential impact of each proposal upon the food allergic community. Some of the proposals would have tremendous impact, if they worked; others made no sense at all and would have no impact.

The process was fascinating: reading the proposals, listening to my fellow panelists and making recommendations all about the scientific idea of “curing” food allergies through genetics. A few years ago, this kind of research was unheard of; when I was a child I was simply told to avoid the things to which I was allergic, there was no discussion of research or a possible cure. To have congressional monies now dedicated to getting to the genetic root of food allergies is vital and potentially life-saving work for millions of us and I was thrilled to add my voice and expertise to the process.

In a few weeks, the CDMRP will announce the winners of the awards. When they do I’ll post them here. In the meantime, YOU can help congress know that we need continued funding for research into food allergy. Write your congressman directly, here’s a link or contact congress through the Food Allergy Initiative, by sending a pre-written request for more funding.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Katz’s Gluten-Free, Rugelech

Rugelach is one of those Jewish desserts I’ve seen my entire life at the family table but never tasted because it usually contains walnuts, like many other Jewish treats – drat those nuts! (Don’t worry, I’ve had plenty of other desserts in my life, Jewish and otherwise.)

I was especially interested when Katz’s Gluten-Free (GF, nut-free and Kosher) contacted me about trying some samples. They’re right here in Brooklyn and I had heard lots of good things about them through other GF bloggers. Gluten-Free, while great in and of itself, doesn’t necessarily mean allergen-free or Allergic Girl safe. I need tree nut-free; that is my biggest concern. I’m tree-nut allergic but only wheat intolerant.

Here’s is Katz’s gluten-free policy from their website but I wanted some more info. I asked Katz’s about their allergen policy and ingredients policy and this was Katz’s reply:

“Our facility is a dedicated facility where only our products listed on the site is being manufactured. We don’t have any Gluten, Dairy or Nut ingredients in any of our Products we work very hard to get Products from suppliers that meet these requirements majority meet this and the others have processes in place that assure that no nuts dairy or gluten get into the products, we do testing for gluten in house.”

I felt reasonably secure enough to try. If you have further questions for your needs, reach out to Katz’s directly:

“Katz Gluten Free has a consumer phone line (845)782-5307 which is personally handled by one of their executives, who patiently answers all production and ingredient-related inquiries and comments, and tries to accommodate all special requests.”


Like any other food manufacturer, not every product in a line is to everyone’s taste: some recipes are better constructed, some ingredients make more sense, some make you wonder what were they thinking and then again, sometimes a product’s success is simply personal preference. It’s no different with specialty foods.

Of the samples Katz’s sent me - a collection of cookies, challah rolls and a chocolate strip - the rugelach and the chocolate strip were hands down the most delicious samples, also the most liked by non-food restricted eaters. This is a page of my favorites, the cinnamon rugelech and the chocolate rugelech and the chocolate strip. Katz’s chocolate is less sweet, with a coffee note that is pleasant and not cloying. The gluten-free dough is pliable (not crumble-y nor chalky) and rich even though it’s dairy-free (it does use eggs ). I’d be happy to serve the chocolate strip with coffee at a dinner party and I think everyone would gobble it down. As for the rugelech, I have no point of comparison but an Orthodox Jewish colleague of mine told me that that underdone, undercooked taste is a prized aspect of the true rugelach. Who knew?

So upshot: I found my favorites and they are yum.


More upshot: Now, you can get some free samples, too. Katz’s Gluten-Free is doing an end of summer giveaway in conjunction with a blogger raffle. The blogger part is that I win something if more people sign up through my site. But the last thing I need is more sweets. So, whether you mention my site or not, go, enter and get some of your own samples of these Kosher treats. Just enter your email address here:

Good luck!